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Speakers overwhelmingly called on the United States to end its economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba as the General Assembly began its annual debate on the issue amid demands for the cessation of unilateral coercive measures.

Throughout the morning, representatives said the nearly six‑decades‑long blockade imposed on the Caribbean island by Washington impedes its right to development and its ability to participate fully in the global economy. They stressed that the United States must heed the Assembly’s repeated calls to lift its restrictive policies.

“From April 2017 to June this year, the impact of the United States embargo on Cuba’s foreign trade amounts to more than $4 billion,” said Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. Limited foreign investment “translates directly into economic hardship and humanitarian impact,” he said, warning that if the embargo is to continue, Cuba’s development potential will be unfairly undermined.

Nicaragua’s delegate said that the “obsolete policy” has cost $933.6 billion in economic losses and violates the human rights of an entire people. Bolivia’s representative agreed, saying that through the embargo, States can observe a systematic violation of human rights and a flagrant disregard of the desire to resolve conflict through the rules‑based order.

The representative for the Bahamas, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), added that the embargo has caused undue hardship on nearly two generations of Cubans and it conflicts with the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said every attempt to justify the embargo has failed to convince 191 Member States, referencing previous votes on the resolution on the matter. Every country is obligated by the United Nations Charter to oppose violations of international law and sustained disregard for sovereign equality and non‑interference in the domestic affairs of States, he stressed.

Kenya’s delegate said that the time to end the sanctions and blockade is long overdue. “It is not justifiable to apply sanctions in perpetuity,” he said. That applies even more so if they are imposed on a State for not adhering to particular cultural values or political ideals. “Let the people of Cuba be free to enjoy the same unhindered social, economic and political freedoms that the rest of us enjoy,” he stressed.

Speakers also voiced concern over recent policy shifts in Washington that are undoing progress made in 2015 and 2016 to normalize bilateral ties with Cuba. The current United States Administration is pursuing efforts to strengthen the blockade, they warned.

The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that the United States is the only country pursuing an illegal policy of economic sanctions against Cuba. “The embargo is the main obstacle to Internet access, the exchange of ideas and cultural relations in Cuba,” he said, reaffirming that the blockade is “totally unjustifiable”.

El Salvador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that the United States Congress has the authority to completely end the blockade and the President can substantially modify its application.

Addressing the Assembly today were States who said they are also victims of unilateral coercive measures. The era of sanctions must come to an end, they said, stressing that only positive dialogue can resolve international disputes.

Among them was the representative of Syria who acknowledged that Cuba has stood with the people of his country as they face ongoing conflict. “Syria is also suffering from unilateral coercive measures,” he said, asking how some States can call for speeding up implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development while they impose coercive economic measures against countries like his as well as Cuba, Iran, China and Palestine.

Iran’s representative said the United States is addicted to sanctions as a means for achieving bilateral goals and has subjected his country to 37 years of unilateral coercive measures. Its blockade against Cuba is a vivid example of the unilateral way in which the United States acts in the world. The United States withdrawal from international agreements like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and its re‑imposition of sanctions on Iran demonstrates that Washington is not trustworthy.

The era of coup d’états, invasions, destabilization, walls, sanctions and aggression is over, he said, adding that it is unfortunate that some world leaders think they can better secure their interests by fomenting extremist nationalism and racism, trampling on global rules and undermining international institutions.

Viet Nam’s representative said his country suffered trade sanctions from the United States for 19 years and fully understands the difficulties and damages that the embargo is causing to Cuba. The reality of Viet Nam‑United States relations shows that only constructive dialogue and engagement will foster mutual trust and make positive changes. Embargoes only make matters worse while contravening the desire of all countries to build sound and equal international relations, he said.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Morocco (on behalf of the African Group), Singapore (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Bangladesh (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Jamaica, India, South Africa, Namibia, Russian Federation, Mexico, China, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Belize, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Angola, Gabon, Suriname and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 1 November, to conclude its consideration of the agenda item.

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